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Magazines serving the communities of Northern Westchester
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by Rich Monetti
A look around our local towns and the greenery is never far from view. Area gardening clubs and beautification committees have long made sure that there’s always a kaleidoscope of color to dress up our libraries, schools, town halls and other public spaces. Some stretching well back into the previous century, the missions go beyond just looking pretty. Behind the scenes:
The North Castle Beautification Committee’s mission is to enhance the hamlets of Armonk, North White Plains and Banksville. The group, comprised of volunteers, has a limited budget provided by the town. They collaborate with the Parks and Recreation Department on most projects. Kevin Foley, the Department’s foreman, is very talented, and the committee appreciates his eye for design, as well as the Department’s labor.
With Spring just around the corner, expect an onslaught of yellow daffodils popping up around the hamlets of Armonk and North White Plains. The Committee continues to add new bulbs each Fall to create more beauty. Additionally, hanging baskets on Main Street, planted barrels and targeted areas around all three hamlets will be sporting colorful flowers.
The Committee doesn’t just beautify with flora, though. They have designed and implemented the installation of new street signs on the primary roads of the hamlets. This includes new welcome signage at entrance points of each hamlet. Also, the group was involved in the addition of two bronze statues–one in front of the Hergenhan Recreation Center, and one at the North Castle Community Center.
This year they’ll be adding three new picnic tables to Wampus Brook Park–two adult picnic tables (one being handicap accessible), and a mushroom-themed children’s table.
Committee members Angela Monforte and Carol Bidjarano both commented that they’re always looking for community input and welcome donations. If you live in any of the hamlets and are interested in joining and representing that hamlet, please contact Carol Bidjarano at 914-273-5353. — By Rich Monetti Photos Courtesy of the North Castle Beautification Committee
The Briarcliff Manor Garden Club was founded in 1955 and its mission has remained constant. “The club’s purpose is to encourage interest in all phases of home gardening and to promote civic beautification, conservation and environmental concerns,” according to Club President Susan Zetkov-Lubin.
BMGC’s current pride and joy keeps the town on yellow alert. “We have a daffodil program, which started in 2014 and is called the BMGC Daffodil Expansion Project ,” said Zetkov-Lubin. “Since 2014, the garden club has planted 1200 daffodils within Briarcliff Manor and will continue to do so. They are particularly beautiful this time of year.”
Add in endeavors like the pollinator pathways program, butterfly gardens and the donation of Christmas decorations and wreaths to various buildings in the area, the town can’t help to feel the uplift. A sentiment that was never more necessary than when Covid reached our shores. “When the daffodils were coming up, we were getting phone calls like crazy because people needed to see that burst of color,” said Zetkov-Lubin. “A sign of hope that made people smile.”
Briarcliff Manor Center For Rehabilitation And Nursing knows the feeling. BMGC has volunteered monthly garden therapy at Briarcliff Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing for many years.
Unfortunately, Covid has prevented the club from entering since 2020 but members will be available when the green light comes. That said, zoom programs will probably become less in play and in person meetings and workshops will resume with the crisis now subsiding.
BMGC also keeps an eye on the future. “We try to set an example for kids,” said Zetkov-Lubin, and those are more than words.
The club raises money annually for local educational scholarships. “We find a senior, who is interested in pursuing a career in horticulture or at least major in the field,” she said.
The club’s Plant & White Elephant Sale will take place on May 7 at the Briarcliff Congregational Church, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. And then on June 3-4, the BMGC Standard Flower Show at the Briarcliff Manor Public Library will take place. The Club is calling the affair, “A June Wedding.”
But if the times don’t align for residents, the soil and the club is ready to have you whenever you are. You won’t be disappointed, according to Zetkov-Lubin. “It’s so satisfying because plants and flowers can bring you joy year after year after year,” she concluded.
Beautification efforts In Briarcliff Manor, alongside the town’s Sustainability Committee, include area kids who are involved in the New York State School Seedling Program. On the current curriculum, schools received the seedlings, decide where to plant and then they go out and break the soil. “It looks like they will plant the white pine seedlings at Briarcliff Middle School and High School,” said Dawn Orza, who is part of the Briarcliff Beautification Committee.
As such, the kids seek out the optimum angle of the sun, how to keep the spot free of weeds and safe from the deer. The youngsters then get a crash course in caterpillars. Milkweed, a necessary host plant for the crawler, the monarch butterfly is the result and yet another avenue to a healthy habitat.
Work that obviously agrees with Briarcliff’s Pollinator Pathways involvement. “It’s all interconnected,” said Orza.
Nonetheless, Briarcliff likes to indulge too, and the pleasing natural manicure that abounds has Orza’s full support. “It’s something I do every day,” said the resident landscape designer, “and if the town can use some guidance, I’m happy to share my expertise.”
For instance, recently intervention meant providing plant palette guidance alongside a new accessible ramp at the Village Hall where the thoroughfare was lined with native flowers and plants.
Department of Public Works and Recreation, the Mayor, Board of Trustees and Village manager all get into the act too. “We have a great working relationship,” said Orza.
Firmly in sync, the consortium also introduced aggressive native plants to curtail the spread of weeds in public plots; they continue beautification and connectivity at the Pocket Park. “The Department of Public Works removed the tired old plantings, and together we replanted several hundred native grasses, flowering plants and spring bulbs,” said Orza. “Right now, the seed heads from flowers feed the birds and look pretty interesting–even at this time of year.”
Of course, the amalgamation of club members and volunteers always have the initiative, and the past is the proof. The Garden Club dedicated a Blue Star Marker in the Pocket Park, which honors the armed forces.
In addition, after 9/11, the Community created an American Patriot Garden at Briarcliff High school. The respite serves as a place for reflection, a memorial to the victims and heroes and a reminder of the daily importance of human rights. The project was sponsored by the Lower Hudson-Long Island Resource Conservation and Development council in partnership with the State of New York.
“There are so many wonderful projects that community members have worked on together,” said Orza, and the strength of the community commitment means there’s no end in sight. –By Rich Monetti Photos Courtesy of the Briarcliff Garden Club
The Chappaqua Garden Club was established in 1928 and will be celebrating their 94th birthday this year! “The Club works to beautify New Castle and promote environmental education through our programs and community projects,” said Gwinne Porter, the Club president. A not-for-profit, the organization focuses on bringing knowledge to our members in the form of educational speakers and community outreach programs.
The programs were always in person, but since Covid, they have offered speakers on varied topics via Zoom. “Some of which have and will continue to be in partnership with the Chappaqua Library,” said Porter. “This has worked out well because partnering with the library has enabled us to broaden the scope of the people we can reach.”
Of course, events are free and open to the public, while the initiatives get into the nitty gritty with the kids too. At the library, there are programs for Juniors, and despite Covid restrictions, these offerings have continued. “We provide take home kits, and film instructional videos, guiding them through the project. All of which are plant and environment related,” said Porter.
The Gardening Club also engages with New Castle seniors on various activities like flower arranging. Last year, a garden at the Community Center was built. New Castle Seniors helped take care of it and got to harvest the rewards.
The group has continued to run popular flower-arranging classes virtually for members as well. In addition, they plan trips throughout the year, which have included New York Botanical Gardens, Wave Hill, and Stone Barns.
The Club started a Greeley Scholarship Program, which is now in its third year. In doing so, a scholarship award goes to two outstanding Greeley senior science students interested in pursuing a major in the field of plant study.
Many people move up to Chappaqua from the city or lower Westchester. They don’t necessarily know how to plant or what to plant and rightfully so, according to Porter. They join to learn, and members try and help. There are some very seasoned members who know so much about gardening and plants. Then there are those who don’t, so the aim is to be a garden club for everyone.
Either way, members like to share and show off their work. Open garden days have them visiting each other’s properties and sharing knowledge “You can find a whole group of people with shared interests,” Porter revealed.
Of course, the camaraderie, beauty and knowledge benefit the town. The Garden Club maintains the 9/11 Memorial at Gedney Park, takes care of the Pocket Park in the town and keeps up the many planters along our town streets. Thus, the beauty becomes second nature. “The Garden Club works together with the New Castle Beautification Board to select ideal plant choices for the Town containers.”
Pollinator Pathways also extends to the Garden Club, and getting the town engaged and informed is on the agenda. This has the Garden Club informing the community on the importance of planting native plants for the health and survival of our ecosystem. In accordance, forgoing harmful pesticides is in line with the pathway program to protect our wildlife. For example, poisoning mosquitoes and other pests only end up hurting the birds that eat them.
But with all the social isolation hopefully coming to an end, “if you ask our club members what they are most excited about, it is finally getting to meet in person once again,” concluded Porter.
To find out more about the Chappaqua Garden Club, and to register for events, go to their website, chappaquagardenclub.com. Follow them on Instagram @chappaquagardenclub. Members can also follow the Chappaqua Garden Club Facebook page for additional info and to stay on top of events. — Rich Monetti with Jennifer Prizer/Chappaqua Garden Club Photos Courtesy of the Chappaqua Garden Club
The Pleasantville Garden Club, a community service organization founded in 1975 is a fast-growing group of over 100 members who are actively engaged in beautifying the Town of Mount Pleasant and Village of Pleasantville, educating children in the local schools, sharing their knowledge of gardening with each other, and working toward protecting our environment. President Helen Krasnow provides the guidance and support for the club’s dedication to the Mount Pleasant community.
A high priority of our club is beautification, with a year-round commitment to developing new gardens as well as maintaining and enhancing public spaces. The design, planting and maintenance is accomplished by the club’s membership in cooperation with the Parks Departments of Mt. Pleasant and the Village of Pleasantville. As you drive around our towns, you will see rose gardens, hamlet sign gardens, town clock gardens, a native plant garden at the Pleasantville Community Television Station and many more.
With the worldwide decline in the population of bees, butterflies, and other insects, our club is among a network of communities addressing this problem. “One of our objectives is to work to enhance the Pollinator Pathways program,” said Elsbeth Lindner, Publicity Committee Chair of the Pleasantville Garden Club. Last summer we held a Butterfly Fair to introduce a beautiful Butterfly Garden in Bradhurst Park. The garden offers nutrition for bees, birds, and especially butterflies through the planting of native plants, herbs, and vegetables. Many children and their parents came to the fair and enjoyed learning about butterflies through the many art and educational activities. Handouts, including “Simple Steps to Creating Pollinator-Friendly Yards” and a “Native Plant Resource Guide”, were distributed to all. Everyone was thrilled as they watched us release monarch butterflies that flew around and landed on flowers in the garden. We thank the Town of Mount Pleasant Recreation for their support.
At the club’s monthly meetings, visiting specialists discuss topics such as landscape design, native plants, and gardening with deer-resistant plants. Having a good number of knowledgeable master gardeners is one of the strengths of our club. Many presentations have been filmed and are available on PCTV, Pleasantville’s Public Access television station. These shows can be viewed on their website: www.pctv76.org/video/2756/.
Our website, www.pleasantvillegardenclub.org contains all the information about the club including the monthly meetings, gardening resources, and three-to-five-minute videos starring garden club members who share their expertise in various topics. You can also follow the club on Facebook @Pleasantville Garden Club Group and Instagram @pleasantvillegardenclub.
Pleasantville Garden Club’s incredible Annual Plant Sale occurs each year on the Saturday before Mother’s Day at Memorial Plaza, next to the Pleasantville Farmers Market. This year the sale will be held on May 7th from 8 am to 12 pm. Gardeners will find member-grown, proven perennials; hundreds of annuals; vegetables and herbs; plush hanging baskets; and numerous gift ideas for Mother’s Day. Our many knowledgeable Master Gardeners will be there to offer educated gardening advice. All the proceeds are used for beautification and conservation projects in our towns, and to support the environmental education programs in our local schools. The sale is so successful because of the hard work of the Plant Sale Committee and the hands-on help of every member.
In the spring and summer, we delight in sharing our gardens with other members. The property can be large and expansive with beds of wildflowers and perennials or small and personal with colorful patio containers. Each offers insight into personal style and preference. We also visit public gardens including dahlias at Stonecrop Gardens, daffodils and hydrangeas at Wave Hill, peonies at the Peony Envy Farms, and many more. Each visit is an enjoyable learning experience.
The Pleasantville Garden Club supports STEM education at the three Mt. Pleasant middle schools: Pleasantville, Westlake, and Valhalla. The programs are provided by the Science Barge of Groundwork Hudson Valley, based in Yonkers. Their environmental educators interact with the students on a variety of eco-friendly programs.
In addition to all the wonderful events and garden commitments, a monthly newsletter called The Inside Dirt is sent to each member. Filled with photos and gardening hints and tips, the newsletter gives all the information each member needs to keep up with the club’s activities, accomplishments, and undertakings. Plus, it keeps the members abreast of future meetings, presentations, pursuits, and obligations.
The Pleasantville Garden Club received recognition for its multifaceted work in the community. In 2019, Club was awarded the “Public Service Award” by the Westchester Recreation and Parks. We continue to be dedicated to the practice of horticulture, beautification, environmental protection, education, and friendship. We are eager to serve our community and welcome others to join us.
We are reminded of the Audrey Hepburn quote, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” — Info and Photos Courtesy of the Pleasantville Garden Club
In Briarcliff Manor, the Plant & White Elephant Sale will take place on May 7 at the Briarcliff Congregational Church, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. And then on June 3-4, the BMGC Standard Flower Show at the Briarcliff Manor Public Library will take place. The Club is calling the affair, “A June Wedding.”
Chappaqua will hold its annual Plant Sale from May 5th – May 7th at the Chappaqua Train Station, over Mother’s Day weekend. “What is most rewarding about the sale,” Club President Gwinne Porter said, “is not just the selling of plants to the community and raising funds for our programs but the way we help answer questions about what plants are best for specific locations. Shade vs. sun, wet vs. dry, our members want to help the community make the right decisions so as to be successful gardeners.”
In Pleasantville, the Annual Plant Sale will be held Saturday, May 7th, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Memorial Plaza, next to the Pleasantville Farmers Market Gardeners will find member-grown, proven perennials; hundreds of annuals; vegetables and herbs; plush hanging baskets; and numerous gift ideas for Mother’s Day. Knowledgeable Master Gardeners will be there to offer educated gardening advice. All proceeds are used for town beautification and conservation projects and to support school environmental education programs.
After you lose your mother, Mother’s Day becomes a somber day of reflection. Our mother is gone 21 years now. She died from lung cancer at the age of 56–a year younger than I am today. It was strange for me when I realized I’m older than my mother would ever be. Still, I reflexively reach for my phone to call her whenever something good or bad happens. Then, remind myself, with phone in hand, she’s not on the other end.
Her life was brief, but the life lessons she instilled in her three girls come back to us constantly. Sometimes, her lessons come slowly, subtly, and, other times, they slap us right in the face. I cannot express how much I love when that happens. Belonging to an Irish Catholic family, living in the Bronx, my mother was the eldest of six. Her life was filled with a steady stream of laundry–much of it done by hand. So, when she married, she insisted on squeezing a washer and a dryer into our already cramped kitchen. It would finally free her of the laborious chores of her childhood.
When I was 11, our parents separated. My mom, two sisters, and I would spend many years in our kitchen talking over the vibrational whir of the washer and the thunderous tumbling of the dryer. At dinnertime, she’d stop the machines mid-cycle so we could have some quiet conversation. Even after working twelve hours a day, six days a week, our mom always made time to sit at the kitchen table and ask about our day. The image of her reaching over to pull open the dryer door, without getting out of her chair, is forever etched in my memories.
Right there, in our groovy 70s kitchen with its loud orange and yellow geometric, metallic wallpaper and knock-off Saarinen white-round table with matching bucket chairs, hung a print of Picasso’s Bouquet of Peace. Since I was, as my mom would say, ‘the artistic one,’ I had trouble with the drawing’s simplicity. I mean, I was 12 and could draw a more lifelike image of a bouquet of flowers. It perplexed me as much as it intrigued me. As a teen, I found myself researching Pablo Picasso and the phases of his work. His earlier work was spot-on realistic. So, clearly, he knew how to draw and paint, but the influences of the time, lead him to break free from realism and delve into cubism, and, eventually, he turned to painting in a childlike manner. I also learned he painted The Bouquet of Peace in response to the peace demonstrations taking place in Stockholm in 1958.
Our kitchen table was the roundtable of our world. Under the watchful eye of The Bouquet of Peace, it’s where our single bra-burning, bellbottom-wearing, liberal-leaning mother created a safe space for her three girls to talk about anything and everything. Nothing was off-limits. It’s where she celebrated our rite of passage into womanhood, and, subsequently, where we complained about our cramps and pimples. It’s where we learned to put on makeup. It’s where we cried over boys. It’s where we talked about our mother’s limited paycheck and how, if we wanted a new pair of Jordache jeans or a new pair of Candies, we had to work for it.
The response to a piece of artwork is typically an emotional one–even if it’s no response at all. Picasso’s flowers were always waiting to greet me in the morning. I’d stare at it while eating my Cheerios. My mother loved the cheerful nature of it and how it represented a sweet gesture of one person giving to another. She shared with me how the giving of something as simple as a bouquet of flowers could bring much joy to the recipient. In those moments, my mother was teaching us the art of the giving, the art of simple beauty, and the art of appreciating art.
So, when I noticed my sister hung that very painting in her laundry room, it bothered me. Why would she choose to hang a significant piece from our childhood in such an obscure place? Then…BAM!!! It hit me. My sister got it right. It was the perfect place, right next to the whoosh of washer and the melodic tumbling of the dryer. Like I said, I love when that happens.
We are all children of Mothers but becoming Mothers is a life changing experience. Not all women choose to become parents and I totally get the decision to swim against the tide, but those of us, who always wanted to be a Mom look forward to the festivities of Mother’s Day. I always feel loved and appreciated by my daughter but on that May day heralded by constant media pressure, (and I admit my firm instructions that I be honored), required the breakfast in bed tradition, Hallmark card and maybe a bunch of flowers even if picked from the just beginning to bloom garden. Now that she’s grown and flown a first thing phone call and a card in the mail and hopefully brunch pleases me just fine.
I started trying to get pregnant when I was 34 and knew it would likely be my only child and I desperately wanted a girl. I will never forget my Mom (who also had a good and devoted son) saying to me that there is nothing like having a daughter because you will be friends for life, as she was with her Mother. Mom and I loved each other dearly but I will admit sometimes I was not the best of friends as I was very independent and craved autonomy, even from an early age, but still we had a devotion and innate understanding such as the deep kinship we get from our woman friends. As we both got older and wiser and after I had a child, I understood her and the bond of parenthood more deeply and allowed myself to inch closer and was devoted to her till the end and was grateful to have been the person she turned to for comfort and strength.
After enjoying my professional life, having sated my hunger for travel and adventure I finally became pregnant at 35. As is customary with pregnancies when one is in her mid 30s, I had ultrasound and amniocentesis. The baby was in a position that gender could not be determined. I awaited the amnio results which came in the mail stating that I would indeed be having a baby girl! I was jubilant but needed confirmation before I told my Mom so I called the lab before giving her the good news. Yes, it was true, and I told her before anyone else and her tearful joy was among the happiest moments we shared together. She was a devoted remarkable grandmother who lived and breathed for this precious only grandchild. This was in fact the best Mother’s Day gift I could have ever given her.
The beauty of this tale is that I do have a daughter who is my best friend. From the moment she came out after 12 hours of exhaustive pushing we looked each other in the eyes like old friends and our profound life of connection started. She was an easy baby, respectful teen and now a remarkable woman of 27. We have rarely fought, think alike, get each other’s jokes, finish each other’s sentences, have the same easy big smile and the green eyes I got from my Dad.
We have laid in bed chatting for hours, dried each other’s tears, watched Pretty Woman endless times, plowed through Gilmore Girls, taken numerous girl trips and shared quite a few Margaritas, arm in arm traipsing through the streets of Manhattan. Honestly, I never imagined the depth of what loving a child could be and I continue to be amazed by the reciprocity of our affection and true pleasure we both enjoy simply by being together.
Now she has a real love in her life, and I have to move over a bit to give them the space to grow their bond and likely marriage and her eventual journey into motherhood. I was nervous at first of losing a bit of her to this new stage, but it has not been the case as we share and talk about the joys and challenges of partnership and our pillow talk is now about men not boys. We still giggle and laugh and plan for the future promising our girl trips will always continue. Oh, and she hopes to have a girl so they can be best friends just like us! That is indeed the best Mother’s Day gift ever.
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